Sep 3, 2004

The Long Road Ahead

I listened to the second half of the Bush convention speech last night, and I grew very sad at the prospect of what I felt for the first time deep inside: I think that he's going to get re-elected. I don't know why I have this feeling, but the fervor in the room, the unflinching resolve of this Administration to push forward an agenda that it believes is the right way for this country to go, regardless of what the vast majority of Americans think, and the virtual invisibility and hard-edged crackdown on what I thought was an amazing showing of solidarity, dogged determination, and just-plain-old-guts of the hundreds of thousands who left their normal routines to voice their objection to some or all of this Administration's priorities and actions over the last 3 1/2 years have led me to believe that there's little hope for a future that doesn't have this man with his minions in tow conquering the White House for another four years, this time possibly with an actual mandate.

I just felt that his team, with Carl Rove at the top of his game, are moving fast to keep the advantage and attack the Kerry-Edwards team with everything that they've got. That Kerry may not have acted exactly as is claimed in Viet Nam is hardly the point. That he went voluntarily to serve for his country, and then realized what a mistake the United States had made in committing to a war that didn't have as much to do with us as the American people were led to believe, and came back to state his beliefs openly at the highest level, advocating that more idealistic young Americans who would and did give up their lives when asked would not have to die for nothing: these are the real points. That Kerry, who I'm not the largest fan of, but who I respect even more as I think more about what he did, turned around and did exactly what wasn't expected of him by enlisting, and then when he returned, a dashing young war hero, instead of swallowing what he'd seen and what he felt was wrong with where the country was going, he again did what was unexpected, what he had to know would bring him in the public eye in a very charged way, and spoke up, well - that's just admirable, and a stark contrast to what the boy born with the petroleum pump in his mouth has done, being handed things left and right, and finally "inheriting" the throne that his father relinquished.

I didn't like the first George Bush, but I didn't have anything close to the same level of disgust as I do for his son. And I didn't fear the impact of his administration the way that I fear this one. And after that speech, whose soundbites will be carried much farther than the immediate reaches of a 1.25 hour speech on a weeknight by all the news channels and all the other ways that people get their news, I fear that people who do not access alternative media, and who really cares aside from those who are already voting ABBA anyway, will buy into his personality, into his proclaimed compassion, into his so-called patriotism, and will want to keep him in office to continue the work that he's been doing, much of which is running this nation into economic, diplomatic, and possibly physical ruin.

I hope that Kerry and Edwards respond with strength and conviction that we are behind them, and that we want change. That we cannot allow this group of hard-right reactionaries to keep pushing what is considered "moderate" in this country to move further and further to the right. That we cannot sit back and idly allow them to make their statements without any equally tough responses. That we cannot rely on common sense and traditional engagement. That we are dealing with an enemy who is willing to do and say anything, even when it's a direct and utter lie, to get what they want. That we cannot wait for fate. That we cannot hope for a swing in the correct direction. That there's too much at stake.

I don't want to believe that middle America, the hard-working people across this nation who don't know that much about world events, who believe what they hear on the evening news, and who don't over-analyze what they hear and see are going to be duped in this election. But I wonder how different John Kerry seems to them than Al Gore. Gore served in Viet Nam also - even though he wasn't in the same capacity as Kerry. He was the sitting Vice President with one of the most beloved Presidents in recent history, and was very intelligent. But he lost the election that counted - and even though he won the popular vote - the opposition found a way to win. Can we wait for that to happen again? That's what's been happening in the streets, holding pens, and courts of NYC this week - we were right, we were careful, and we still got caught in the intricate web that was laid out for us. So what if they were breaking the law in holding our brethren in Guantanamo on the Hudson for more than 24 hours? They'll release them all in the next 24 hours, but they'll have made their point already. Oppose us, and we'll crush you. Same at home as abroad.

We'll keep fighting, but the road ahead is long and I can't see the end through the dark forest in which we are mired. Below: Bob Herbert of the Times responds to the RNC and Bush's speech. Peace.

NY Times
September 3, 2004
Heads in the Sand

When asked this week on CNN how long the U.S. military is likely to remain in Iraq, Senator John McCain replied "probably" 10 or 20 years. "That's not so bad," he said, adding, "We've been in Korea for 50 years. We've been in West Germany for 50 years."

Reporters have come to expect candor from Senator McCain, and in this case he didn't disappoint. But there weren't any speakers mounting the podium at the Republican National Convention to hammer home the message that G.I.'s would be in Iraq for a decade or two.

That's not the understanding most Americans had when this wretched war was sold to them, and it's not the view most Americans hold now.

If Senator McCain is correct (and the belief in official Washington is that he is), then boys and girls who are 5 or 10 years old now will get their chance in 2015 or 2020 to strap on the Kevlar and engage the Iraqi "insurgents" who, like the indigenous forces we fought in Vietnam, will never accept the occupation of their country by America.

Marcina Hale, a protester who came to New York this week from suburban Westport, Conn., said she has two teenage boys and that Iraq "is not a war that I'm willing to send my sons to." As the years pass and the casualties mount, that sentiment will only grow.

The truth is always the first casualty of politics. But there was a bigger disconnect than usual between the bizarre, hermetically sealed perspective that was on display in Madison Square Garden this week and the daunting events unfolding without respite in the real world.

Iraq is a mess. While the cartoonish Arnold Schwarzenegger was drawing huge laughs in the Garden and making cracks about economic "girlie men," reports were emerging about the gruesome murder of 12 Nepalese hostages who had traveled to Iraq less than two weeks earlier in search of work.

At the same time, an effort to disarm insurgents in the militant Baghdad slum of Sadr City collapsed, and the death toll among American forces in Iraq continued its relentless climb toward 1,000.

The Los Angeles Times noted yesterday that a report by the respected Royal Institute of International Affairs in London has concluded that Iraq will be lucky if it avoids a breakup and civil war. The often-stated U.S. goal of a full-fledged Iraqi democracy is beyond unlikely.

In Afghanistan, a legitimate front in the so-called war against terror, much of the country remains in the hands of warlords, and the opium trade is flourishing. Experts believe substantial amounts of money from that trade is flowing to terrorist groups.

In Israel, 16 people were killed by suicide bombers who blew themselves up on a pair of crowded buses on Tuesday. In Russia, a series of horrific terror attacks, in the air and on the ground, have cast a pall across the country.

Despite all the macho posturing and self-congratulating at the Republican convention, the wave of terror that's been unleashed on the world is only growing. The American-led war in Iraq is feeding that wave, causing it to swell rather than ebb.

Any serious person who looked around the world this week would have to wonder what the delegates at the G.O.P. convention were so happy about.

The Republican conventioneers spent the entire week reminding America that we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. But interestingly, there was hardly a mention by name of those actually responsible for the attacks - Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Discussions about the nation's real enemies were taboo. We don't know where they are or what they're up to. The over-the-top venom of some of the speakers and delegates was reserved not for Osama, but for a couple of mild-mannered guys named John.

What Americans desperately need is a serious, honest discussion of where we go from here. If we're going to be in Iraq for 10 or 20 more years, the policy makers should say so, and tell us what that will cost in money and human treasure. The violence associated with such a long-term occupation is guaranteed to be appalling.

Vietnam tore this nation apart. As we've seen in this campaign, the wounds have yet to heal. Incredibly, we're now traveling a similarly tragic road in Iraq.


Steve said...

i guess the only part i disagree on in this post is the assertion that w and his minions would be leading the country for 4 more years. on the contrary, w is actually but one of the minions. a minion of halliburton, the late enron, and the rest of conglomerate that make up the upper 2% of the country. i swore i saw dick cheney pull his hand out of up w's back after the speech was over. only to applaud himself and the immediately re-insert it. why do i feel like george bush is the oafish but likeable kid that was elected class president by the cool kids in high school? elected to allow the other cool kids to get away with picking on everyone else and yet serve as a distraction with his "likability." the same kid whose house everyone would trash at a friday night party, but then no one would show up on saturday afternoon to clean up the mess from the night before.

Rage said...

i hear you on that - but i think that they've agreed to take other posts this time around (musical chairs for rumsfeld and cheney in their ascent to power over the decades).

michael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
burnedouteyes said...

I feel much the same that you do... tho I'm scared of saying that Bush will win. Fearful of some kind of jinx. And I'm not a superstitious sort, usually.

Yes, we must fight. It does seem like a long road ahead. It's good not to feel alone in the struggle.

Rage said...

Accidently deleted Michael's comment - it was basically stating that he hopes that Kerry will turn around and take fire at the fat old elephants... and then giving a link to a piece by Michael Moore that directly attacks pansy liberals who were worried about just what I mentioned above.

I just wanted to cause a stir. :)